The sixth year of the Hangout Music and Arts Festival is in the books, and while the festival never officially sold out this year, there were plenty of acts to satisfy plenty of fans on the beaches of Gulf Shores. EDM didn’t seem to weigh quite as heavy on the schedule this year as it has in recent years, with the exception of Skrillex, who closed out Saturday night on the Surf Stage. He also joined Diplo for an unexpected set opposite Foo Fighters’ headlining slot on Friday as Sam Smith’s recent vocal cord surgery forced the British crooner to cancel his appearance just before the festival.
So maybe there was plenty for the EDM fan, but it was balanced against more rock for the 30-something set: the aforementioned Foo Fighters, Saturday headliner Zac Brown Band, Sunday headliner Beck, My Morning Jacket, Jenny Lewis.
It’s difficult not to jump to Beck and Foo Fighters as the best things seen this weekend. Both are likely Rock and Roll Hall of Famers, and both executed their sets to near perfection. Foo Fighters rolled through several covers, including The Who’s “Young Man Blues” which opened the set, The Faces’s “Stay With Me,” The Rolling Stones’s “Miss You” and Queen and David Bowie’s “Under Pressure.” It was a relaxed set, a version of Foo Fighters that enjoys an excuse to get to Gulf Shores (once cited by Dave Grohl as a childhood vacation spot for drummer Taylor Hawkins) and the band didn’t really have an album to promote. Preservation Hall Jazz Band joined them for “In the Clear,” members of Zac Brown Band joined for “Congregation” and “Something from Nothing” was the final track played of 19 from 2014’s “Sonic Highways” collection.
And Beck played the hits. All of them. Not far removed from avoiding his breakthrough single “Loser,” he placed it third in the setlist, just ahead of “The New Pollution” and just after kicking off the 20 song set with “Devil’s Haircut.” His set also included “Lost Cause,” “Girl” and “Sexx Laws,” alongside fan favorites like “Timebomb” and “Debra.” He encored a 90-minute set with “E-Pro” as fireworks filled the sky.
So with the clear cut winners of the weekend out of the way, here’s the best of the rest of what my subjective eyes saw at Hangout this weekend, or what I found the most interesting, anyway:
- Young Fathers – I feel like Young Fathers is TV on the Radio before TV on the Radio was playing later in the afternoon. That is, this isn’t really that structured and there are a lot of interesting things being incorporated into this sound. And I almost feel like the entire band is “in character” during their set. Maybe it’s because they break down a lot of stereotypical barriers in what music can be. And I’m not sure how to describe what the result is – it’s simply engaging. It completely held my attention for 60 minutes and I couldn’t look away.
- DJ Windows 98 with Preservation Hall Jazz Band – This is Win Butler’s (Arcade Fire) DJ side project, and DJ is generous, as he is doing nothing more than playing mp3s from his iTunes collection. So at 2 p.m. on Friday, he took that to the Salt Life Stage inside the Hangout restaurant and he brought along omnipresent Preservation Hall Jazz Band. I’m not sure that everyone involved was on the same page or that they even cared. It was a Michael Jackson tracked followed by an Outkast track – typical dance fare – but Preservation Hall Jazz Band was playing improvisational jazz on top of it. It didn’t make any sense, and it probably shouldn’t have been attempted, but it was interesting. I’ll never see something like that again.
- My Morning Jacket – My Morning Jacket’s new record sounds phenomenal live. And while they notched several of those tracks in Sunday’s setlist like “Big Decisions,” “In Its Infancy (The Waterfall)” and “Tropics (Erase Traces),” they also managed to include some of their biggest tracks including a stretch to wrap the set that included “Victory Dance,” “Wordless Chorus,” “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 2” and “One Big Holiday.” They’ve taken some time away from each other for a Jim James solo project, for Spanish Gold and for The New Basement Tapes, but the time away was kind to their studio and live product.
- Jenny Lewis – Jenny wedged her biggest solo hits in the middle of a slew of Rilo Kiley tunes and the whole group sounded better together than I could have predicted. She opened with “Silver Lining” and she also managed to include “With Outstretched Arms,” “Portions for Foxes” and “A Better Son/Daughter,” while knocking out Birmingham Mountain Radio staples like “Just One of the Guys” and “She’s Not Me.”
- TV on the Radio – It’s been said that TV on the Radio hit a bit of a ceiling. Their future once seemed incredibly bright, but the band’s late afternoon/early evening slots at Shaky Knees a week ago and at Hangout this weekend seem to be as far as their upward mobility will allow. But they sounded terrific in the slot, and their new record is beginning to age into a record that fits alongside bands like My Morning Jacket and The War on Drugs. Yes, I’m saying TV on the Radio turned into “Dad Rock.” But if The War on Drugs is the starting place and My Morning Jacket is a more reasonable ceiling for TV on the Radio can be, it’d be difficult to complain.